Working on Hookheath

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Shame to see these guys off the site, they were a happy bunch. Hope to see them back next year

There has been quite a bit happening on the reserves recently. It’s a busy time of year, with a strong changeover in our activities. Spring and Summer see monitoring and reserve infrastructure taking precedent, followed by grassland management near the end of the summer. Autumn and winter see us stepping up a gear and munching through our wooded areas and scrub – as mentioned in past blog posts.

It also means the removal of our cattle. Most of our sites lay very wet over the winter so to stop any lasting damage occurring to the ground and soil structure, all cows need to be taken to a comfortable dry site for winter. So, October onward we see a steady reduction of numbers until all are off around mid November.

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Curtis

Hookheath Meadows was our first site to see cattle removed. This requires a TB test to be undertaken so we had to get all five into the holding pen, including the lovely Curtis, our British White Bull. This was then followed up three days later with another test to see if they were clear. Thankfully they were.

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Lots of work clearing, but pleasant in the woods

We have recently acquired a new felling licence for the site so we have started work thinning some of the woodland to open up the meadows. We need to do this before it gets too wet to access it, as being what is ultimately a flood plain or wet pasture, it gets a little soggy underfoot.

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A coppiced hazel stool. This now has to be protected from browsing deer.

We started on Tuesday, thinning out some woodland areas and coppicing the older hazel stools. This revitalizes the tree, and what looks like a destructive act actually benefits the tree, with coppiced stools lasting much longer than un-managed individuals. It also grows back and produces a thick mid-layer throughout the woodland, favoured by species like Marsh Tit. This allows connectivity to be maintained through the meadows, joining the neighbouring areas of woodland. We also have to consider the canopy level, with important butterfly species and bird species predominately existing in this layer. Therefore connectivity is important, allowing these species to maintain a diverse and extended population.

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Thousands of ladybirds were at Hookheath on Tues. They mostly ended up in our truck

Whilst working we found a huge veteran willow tree, not something that you see too often as they tend to collapse at an older age. There was also a lot of fungi around, it seems to be a good autumn for it.

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4 thoughts on “Working on Hookheath

    • Hi Jill. We use the larger cut hazel stems to make stakes that we drive into the ground and use the thinner stems to weave a sort of basket around the stump to keep the deer off while the tasty new shoots are growing.

      • Thanks Emma.
        I have seen a photo as well now.
        It’s an amazing skill in itself isn’t it. So environmentally friendly, as well as effective. Brilliant me finks. 🙂

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